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Posts Tagged: Neal Williams

Why the Squash Bee Is Important

Katharina Ullmann in a pollinator patch. (Photo by Neal Williams)
Peponapis pruinosa isn't your common household word.

But among the people who study pollinators, it is.

Also known as a squash bee, it is an important pollinator of cultivated crops of squash, pumpkins, and others members of the genus Cucurbita.

Enter Katharina Ullmann, a graduate student in the Neal Williams lab in the Department of Entomology and Nematology at the University of California, Davis.

She researches them, studying their persistence in agricultural landscapes.

And on Wednesday, June 4, Ullmann will present a seminar on her research: "Squash Bee Persistence in Agricultural Landscapes: the Role of Connectivity and Disturbance" from 12:10 to 1 p.m. in 122 Briggs Hall, located off Kleiber Hall Drive. This is the last in the series of spring seminars hosted by the department.

"It is well documented that wild native bees can benefit many crops through increased seed and fruit set, thus providing sustainable pollination alternatives in cases of honey bee decline and increased honey bee rental prices," Ullmann says.  "Yet, it is unclear how to best manage crop systems to support wild native bees. Research on enhancing wild native bees has historically focused on field border management. However, to ensure the sustainability of a crop-pollination system, a comprehensive approach should also include within field practices."

"Promoting a whole-farm pollinator management strategy is especially important given that agricultural intensification is associated with practices that negatively impact wild native bees. Whole-farm strategies may provide effective alternatives for growers who are slow to adopt resource-intensive, border-management practices. The proposed project will contribute to our understanding of these strategies by determining the impact of tillage practices and crop rotations on a ground-nesting, native bee that is an important pollinator in a specialty crop system."

Ullmann said that Cucurbita crops (including squash and pumpkin) rely on pollinators to set fruit. "The specialist squash bee, Peponapis pruinosa, is an important pollinator of Cucurbita and can reduce grower reliance on rented honey bee colonies. In-field management is particularly relevant for this species given that it nests preferentially below its host's vines. I will use observational surveys and manipulative experiments to identify crop rotation schemes and tillage practices that benefit P. pruinosa. These results provide insights into how species persist in agricultural landscapes, with an emphasis on the roles of connectivity and disturbance."

Ullmann, who expects to receive her doctorate in entomology in September 2014, researches population persistence in dynamic landscapes, and on-farm beneficial insect habitat enhancements. Her interests also include supporting citizen science, translating research related to pollinator conservation and encouraging dialogue between researchers and farmers.

She developed a native bee YouTube channel aimed at providing a direct line of communication between university researchers, farmers and the general public. In addition, she developed the blog Pollinator Farm and associated social media handles on Twitter and Facebook.

Ullmann's seminar on June 4 is to be video-recorded for later posting on UCTV.

Squash bee, Peponapis pruinosa, on a squash blossom. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Squash bee, Peponapis pruinosa, on a squash blossom. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Squash bee, Peponapis pruinosa, on a squash blossom. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

The squash bee, Peponapis pruinosa, is a specialist, pollinating only the Cucurbita genus. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
The squash bee, Peponapis pruinosa, is a specialist, pollinating only the Cucurbita genus. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

The squash bee, Peponapis pruinosa, is a specialist, pollinating only the Cucurbita genus. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Posted on Monday, June 2, 2014 at 10:09 PM

Congrats to The Bee Team!

Congrats to “The Bee Team” at the University of California, Davis.

The one-of-a-kind team, comprised of five Department of Entomology faculty members, received the coveted team award from the Pacific Branch, Entomological Society of America (PBESA), for their collaborative work specializing in honey bees, wild bees and pollination issues through research, education and outreach.

Their service to UC Davis spans 116 years.

The “Bee Team” is comprised of Extension apiculturist Eric Mussen;  systematist/hymenopterist Lynn Kimsey, director of the Bohart Museum of Entomology and professor of entomology who coordinated the development and installation of a landmark bee friendly garden; and native pollinator specialist Robbin Thorp, emeritus professor of entomology; pollination ecologist Neal Williams, assistant professor of entomology who specializes in pollination and bee biology; and biologist/apiculturist Brian Johnson, assistant professor of entomology who specializes in bee communication, bee behavior and bee health.

PBESA represents 11 states, seven U.S. territories, and parts of Canada and Mexico. 

Thorp, who retired from the university in 1994, continues to work full-time on behalf of the bees, and has tallied 49 years of service to UC Davis.  Mussen, who will retire in June of 2014, has provided 37 years of service; Kimsey, 24; Williams, 4 and Johnson, 2.

“The collaborative team exceptionally serves the university, the state, the nation, and indeed the world, in research, education and public service,” wrote nominator Michael Parrella, professor and chair of the UC Davis Department of Entomology.  “The Bee Team is really the ‘A’ team; no other university in the country has this one-of-a-kind expertise about managed bees, wild bees, pollination, bee health, bee identification, and bee preservation. Honey bee health is especially crucial. Since 2006 when the colony collapse disorder surfaced, we as a nation have been losing one-third of our bees annually.  Some beekeepers are reporting 50 to 100 percent winter losses. The importance of bees cannot be underestimated: one-third of the food we eat is pollinated by bees.”

Among those lending support to The Bee Team through letters were the Mary Delany, interim chair of the UC Davis College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences; AnnMaria "Ria" de Grassi, director of federal policy, California Farm Bureau Federation; Christi Heintz, executive director of Project Apis m. and the Almond Board of California Task Force Liaison; and Mace Vaughn, pollinator conservation program director of the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation.

The Bee Team (from left) Eric Mussen, Neal Williams, Robbin Thorp, Lynn Kimsey and Brian Johnson. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
The Bee Team (from left) Eric Mussen, Neal Williams, Robbin Thorp, Lynn Kimsey and Brian Johnson. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

The Bee Team (from left) Eric Mussen, Neal Williams, Robbin Thorp, Lynn Kimsey and Brian Johnson. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Posted on Thursday, April 25, 2013 at 9:19 PM

Promoting Pollinator Habitat

Neal Williams
It's a good cause.

The seventh annual Bee Symposium, a fundraiser for Partners for Sustainable Pollination, will take place on Saturday, March 9 in Sebastopol.

That's when five speakers will talk about pollinator habitat--what's good to plant and why. The theme is "Pollinator Habitat and Forage."

The event takes place from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. in the Sebastopol Center for the Arts, located in the Veterans' Building at 282 South High St., Sebastopol.

Pollination ecologist Neal Williams, assistant professor of pollination and bee biology, UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology, will be among the speakers at the all-day event.

Williams will discuss "Development of Wildflower Mixes to Promote Native Pollination in Agriculture."

A core faculty member in the UC Davis Agricultural Sustainability Institute, Williams focuses his research on pollination that spans the disciplines of conservation biology, behavioral ecology and evolution.  One of his primary research foci is on sustainable pollination strategies for agriculture. This work is critical given ongoing pressures facing managed honey bees and reported declines in important native pollinators such as bumble bees.  

He and his colleagues explore the role of wild native bees, honey bees and other managed species as crop pollinators and the effects of landscape composition and local habitat quality on their persistence.  

Williams' continuing goal is to provide practical information that can be used to improve the long- term stability of pollination for agriculture in California, as well as promote pollinator conservation and management.

Other speakers at the symposium will include bee industry expert Peter Borst of Biomedical Sciences, Cornell University. He will deliver two talks: "A Short History of Pollination" and "Pollinator Panorama." Borst is a regular contributor to the American Bee Journal.

Professor Gordon Frankie of UC Berkeley will discuss "Bees and Flowers: A Selective Love Affair.”

Master Gardener Cheryl Verettto will share “Plant 4 Bees: Help The Bees by Planting All 4 Seasons”

Farmer Paul Kaiser of the Singing Frogs Farm will cover “Farming for Pollinators: How Can We  Humans Produce Nutrient Dense Food While Improving the health, Vitality and Resiliency of Mother Nature?”

Tickets are $35 pre-sale or $45 at the door. Members receive a $5 discount. For more information or to purchase tickets, access http:// www.pfspbees.org/store or cash tickets may be purchased  at  Beekind, 921 Gravenstein Highway South., Sebastopol.

For general information, contact Jeanine Robbins at jeaninepfsp@gmail.com or (707) 824-2905.

Blue pollen from a bird's eye blossom covers a honey bee. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Blue pollen from a bird's eye blossom covers a honey bee. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Blue pollen from a bird's eye blossom covers a honey bee. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Posted on Friday, March 1, 2013 at 8:17 PM

Landscape Conservation for Rare Insects

"Landscape Conservation for Rare Insects!"

That's the title of a seminar to be hosted by the UC Davis Department of Entomology on Wednesday, Jan. 23. 

Nick Haddad, the William Neal Reynolds Professor of Biology at North Carolina State University (NCSU), Raleigh, N.C., will speak from 12:10 to 1 p.m., in Room 1022 of the Life Sciences Addition, corner of Hutchison and Kleiber Hall drives. Pollination ecologist Neal Williams, assistant professor of entomology, will introduce him.

The seminar promises to be riveting. 

"I will discuss studies of landscape approaches and how they may be used to conserve rare insects, focusing on rare butterflies," Haddad said. "In one experiment, we are studying how landscape corridors may be used to increase insect dispersal and population viability.  In a second experiment, we are asking whether habitat restoration creates population sources, or instead creates unintended population sinks for rare butterflies.  These experimental approaches that consider mechanisms of dispersal and demography can be used to inform large scale conservation and restoration in a changing world." 

One of his endangered subjects, found only in North Carolina, is a brown butterfly, Saint Francis satyr (Neonympha mitchellii francisci). See the photo below by Melissa McGaw.

Haddad recently launched a new website, Conservation Corridor, aimed at connecting science to conservation.

Haddad received his doctorate in ecology from the University of Georgia in 1997, and his bachelor's degree in biology, with honors, from Stanford University in 1991. He served as a researcher in the Guatemala Program, Center for Conservation Biology, Stanford University, from 1990 to 1997, and as a post-doctoral researcher at the University of Minnesota from 1997-1999 before joining the the North Carolina State University faculty in 1999.

He advanced from assistant professor of zoology to associate professor of biology to professor of biology. In between, he headed west to UC Davis to become a sabbatical scholar, hosted by Marcel Holyoak, from 2006-2007.

Haddad has published his work in Conservation Biology, Journal of Insect Conservation, Ecology, Ecology Letters,Conservation Genetics, PLoS ONE, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Population Ecology, Science, and Ecography, among others.  

Assistant professors Brian Johnson and Joanna Chiu are coordinating the Department of Entomology's winter seminars. All the winter seminars are being video-recorded under the direction of James R. Carey and will be posted at a later date on UCTV.

Meanwhile, there's lots of good information on his Conservation Corridor website. You can also "like" his Conservation Corridor Facebook page.

Nick Haddad (Photo by Melissa McGaw)
Nick Haddad (Photo by Melissa McGaw)

Nick Haddad in the field. (Photo by Melissa McGaw)

Saint Francis satyr (Neonympha mitchellii francisci). (Photo by Melissa McGaw)
Saint Francis satyr (Neonympha mitchellii francisci). (Photo by Melissa McGaw)

Saint Francis satyr (Neonympha mitchellii francisci). (Photo by Melissa McGaw)

Posted on Thursday, January 17, 2013 at 8:26 PM

Aspiring for Better Pollination

We can expect some exciting research to emerge from the U. S. Department of Agriculture's Specialty Crop Research Initiative (SCRI).

And UC Davis pollination ecologist Neal Williams, an assistant professor in the Department of Entomology, is a part it.

Williams and postdoctoral fellow Claire Brittain of the Williams lab will be participating in the SCRI's annual team and advisory committee meeting, to be held Jan. 17-19 in Gainesville, Fla.

Williams is a co-project director of Aspire Project: Augmenting Specialty Crop Pollination Through Integrated Research and Education for Bees, a coordinated agricultural project funded by SCRI. Williams serves as the project leader for habitat enhancement for bees and a co-leader of a project seeking alternative managed bees for almonds.

The meeting will be the first “all-hands-on-deck” meeting to discuss plans for the first field season; to coordinate collection and curation techniques; and to obtain feedback from the Advisory Committee Tentative Plan, according to Rufus Isaacs, berry crops entomology Extension specialist at Michigan State University, Lansing, Mich.

Isaacs directs the Aspire Project for Bees and is the principal investigator of the $1.6-million SCRI grant. (See news release.

In addition to Williams, the co-project directors are Theresa Pitts-Singer, research entomologist, USDA-ARS Pollinating Insects Research Unit, Department of Biology. Logan, Utah;  Mace Vaughan, pollinator program director, Xerces Society, Portland, Ore; and Mark Lubell, Sociology of Sustainability,  UC Davis Department of Environmental Science and Policy.

Project Team members are investigating the performance, economics, and farmer perceptions of different pollination strategies in various fruit and vegetable crops. These include complete reliance on honey bees, farm habitat manipulation to enhance suitability for bees, and use of managed native bees alone or in combination with honey bees. The Project Team has a strong outreach focus, said Isaacs, and will deliver its findings to specialty crop agriculture through various diverse routes of traditional and new media, including the Aspire website.

 “Our long-term goal is to develop and deliver context-specific Integrated Crop Pollination (ICP) recommendations on how to most effectively harness the potential of native bees for crop pollination,” says Isaacs on the Aspire website. “We define ICP as: the combined use of different pollinator species, habitat augmentation, and crop management practices to provide reliable and economical pollination of crops. This approach is analogous to Integrated Pest Management in that we aim to provide decision-support tools to reduce risk and improve returns through the use of multiple tactics tailored to specific crops and situations. By developing context-specific ICP programs, this project will improve sustainability of U.S. specialty crops and thereby help ensure the continued ability of growers to reap profitable returns from their investments in land, plants, and other production inputs.”

The project objectives are five-fold:

  1. to identify economically valuable pollinators and the factors affecting their abundance.
  2. to develop habitat management practices to improve crop pollination.
  3. to determine performance of alternative managed bees as specialty crop pollinators.
  4. to demonstrate and deliver ICP practices for specialty crops.
  5. to determine optimal methods for ICP information delivery and measure ICP adoption

Two other UC-affiliated scientists are involved with the Aspire program: Karen Klonsky, Cooperative Extension specialist with the UC Davis Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics; and Claire Kremen, pollination ecologist and professor at UC Berkeley.

All hands on deck!

The blue orchard bee or BOB (Osmia) is being studied as an alternative pollinator. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
The blue orchard bee or BOB (Osmia) is being studied as an alternative pollinator. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

The blue orchard bee or BOB (Osmia) is being studied as an alternative pollinator. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Pollination ecologist Neal Williams working on an Osmia project last summer. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Pollination ecologist Neal Williams working on an Osmia project last summer. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Pollination ecologist Neal Williams working on an Osmia project last summer. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Posted on Wednesday, January 16, 2013 at 11:17 PM

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